WI a President did NOT threaten military action over the Cuban missiles

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Derek Jackson, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. Derek Jackson Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Clearly the Cuban missiles terrified Americans. However the US certainly did not regard either possession of nuclear weapons or basing them on territoreis of allies.

    As a matter of international law if there had been a bombing or invasion it would have arguably have been an illegal aggression.

    Interfering with shipping in international waters would have been an act of war and the US would clearly have been the power that started it.

    Stll had Kennedy (or maybe President Stevenson or Humphrey) protested but not threaened action would there have been an attempt to impeach?
  2. 037771 Well-Known Member

    Oct 28, 2007
    I don't feel I'm qualified to comment on the first points, but this one I think I can answer.

    If you don't have Kennedy winning in '60, and an alternative Democrat winning, you could very well butterfly the whole crisis away. Kennedy's own actions during the first year of his presidency did not portray him in Soviet eyes as a man who would necessarily stand up adequately for US interests in a major standoff. This of course was a misjudgement, and there is plenty of evidence to back up the idea that JFK was a 'Cold Warrior'- US aid propped up anti-Communists movements across the Third World, and Western Democratic values were avidly protected in Central Europe, in opposition to any predations by the Warsaw Pact- but a misjudgement nevertheless made by Khrushchev.

    The first clue was the Bay of Pigs disaster. CIA-backed Cuban Exiles invade a nice little beach in Cuba, and get massacred. Playa Giron itself was a plan carried over by the military and intelligence services from the Eisenhower era, and it was flawed as hell. The CIA were briefing the Exiles with maps from 1908, air cover was patchy and the Exiles were not able to withstand the eventual Communist Cuban response. If Kennedy had probed a little more (not a great leap), enquired into the full workings of the plan, Playa Giron would probably have been shelved. Shelving it would mean Khrushchev wouldn't have scented weakness- the common view in '61, especially after the Vienna Summit, was that Kennedy was weak, indecisive and too intellectual- and wouldn't have gone and encouraged Ulbricht to start building the Berlin Wall over the next few months.

    From the Soviet point of view, sticking missiles on Cuba wasn't a rash decision; it was a plodding process (ish), as Soviet diplomacy and confrontation in Western Europe confirmed suspicions (in their eyes) that the Kennedy Administration was, at best, a pushover. It also involved a process whereby the decision was (eventually) made that Fidel Castro in Cuba was indispensible. Soviet suspicions as to his ideological loyalty would certainly have been raised if the meeting between Dick Goodwin and Che in Punte del Este was somehow leaked; then Khrushchev might see Castro as another Nasser. For even the Cuban Missile Crisis to occur then, you need that sort of string of events to occur to confirm Moscow's suspicions. If you remove Playa Giron, Khrushchev is less likely to think Kennedy is inept and the impression may be struck that the Administration is certainly more subtle than the previous, and thus should be more carefully dealt with.

    And that equilibrium might not even occur if you have a President Hubert Humphrey or Adlai Stevenson. HHH was, despite what you might first think, vehemently anti-Communist. I can imagine him being quite tenacious in any Summit scenario, and although he mellowed somewhat by 1968, if you look at his earlier interviews, he strikes a formidable figure. Stevenson was also, but actually was indecisive; the man could have been drafted at the 1960 Democratic Convention if he'd acted on the wave of enthusiasm that confronted him on his arrival. President Stevenson- although probably if you stick him as the Democratic nominee you'd probably end up with Nixon in '60, which wouldn't be all that bad (I mean there you probably wouldn't approach something like the CMC ever occuring)- might well be catastrophic for US interests.